Hosting a Christmas gathering? Try these recipes from Singapore’s society ladies
What dishes do Singapore’s social set typically serve for their Christmas gatherings? From turkey to cheesecake, the city’s most prominent party hosts share their favourite festive recipes.
Christmas may look a little different this year no thanks to the ongoing pandemic, but there’s still much fun to be had while hosting a festive feast at home, even if it means a more intimate group this time around.
These luminaries of Singapore’s social set are known for concocting some of the most scrumptious holiday meals for friends and family. They reveal their favourite festive dishes to whip up in the kitchen, complete with recipes for you to try.
ASTRIE SUNINDAR-RATNER’S NEW YORK CHEESECAKE
"My husband is half-American and he used to make this cheesecake with his dad. Now he makes it with my son Noah, and it’s Noah’s favourite dessert. As a New Yorker, he is so very proud that he can make a proper New York Cheesecake!” shared Astrie Sunindar-Ratner, etiquette consultant and founder of A – The Etiquette Consultancy.
2 cups of Walker Shortbread
Pinch of salt
4 tbsp plus 1 tsp (60g) unsalted butter
900g cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/3 cup granulated sugar (270g)
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream (160ml)
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream (160ml)
Sour cream topping:
2 cups sour cream (475ml)
1/3 cup powdered sugar (35g)
1 tsp vanilla extract
- Process the Walker Shortbread. Mix with sugar, salt, butter in a food processor or blender until finely grounded. Put in a large bowl, and stir in the sugar and salt. Stir in the melted butter.
- Preheat oven to 175 degrees Celcius.
- Press the shortbread crumbs into the bottom of the springform pan until the crumbs form a nice, even layer at the bottom of the pan.
- Bake the crust – place the pan on a baking sheet and bake at 175 degrees Celsius for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.
- Triple wrap pan in heavy duty foil. Prepare the springform pan so that water will not leak into it while cooking.
- Cut the cream cheese into chunks and place in the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix on medium speed for four minutes until smooth, soft and creamy. Add the sugar, beat for four more minutes.
- Add the salt and vanilla, beating after each addition. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating on medium low speed for one minute after each addition. Add the sour cream, beat until incorporated.
- Add the heavy cream, beat until incorporated.
- Prepare pan and boiling water. Place the foil-wrapped springform pan in a large, high-sided roasting pan. Prepare two quarts of boiling water. Heat the oven to 160 degrees Celcius.
- Pour filling into pan. Pour the cream cheese filling into the springform pan, over the shortbread bottom layer. Smooth the top with a rubber spatula.
- Place in oven. Place the roasting pan with the springform pan in it, in the oven, on the lower rack.
- Carefully pour the hot water into the roasting pan (without touching the hot oven), to create a water bath for the cheesecake, pouring until the water reaches halfway up the side of the spring form pan, about 1 1/4 inches. (Alternatively you can add the water before putting the pan in the oven, whichever is easier).
- Bake at 160 degrees Celcius for 1 1/2 hours.
- Turn off the heat of the oven. Crack open the oven door one-inch, and let the cake cool in the oven, as the oven cools, for another hour. This gentle cooling will help prevent the cheesecake surface from cracking.
- Cover the top of the cheesecake with foil, so that it doesn't actually touch the cheesecake. Chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of four hours, or overnight.
IROSHINI CHUA’S MAPLE-GLAZED TURKEY
“This recipe was shared with me by a friend and it is one of the juiciest turkey recipes out there! Our family and extended family have been requesting that I be the one to prepare the turkey for our Christmas parties for almost a decade now thanks to this recipe. Our friends have also voiced that they look forward to the celebrations in our home and it is this turkey that takes place of pride at our Christmas table,” said Iroshini Chua, co-founder of Dr Kevin Chua Medical & Aesthetics.
1 orange cut into quarters
250g Maldon salt
3 tbsp black peppercorns
1 bouquet garni
1 stick of cinnamon
1 tbsp caraway seeds
1 tbsp allspice powder
4 star anise
2 tablespoons white mustard seeds
2 onions cut into quarters
6x1cm pieces of ginger
4 tbsp maple syrup
4 tbsp honey
Stalks from 1 bunch fresh parsley
3 tbsp maple syrup
- Pour the water into a large bucket. Squeeze the juice from the orange and add the quarters into the water. Add all the other ingredients and stir well.
- You can defrost the turkey while brining it to remove any string and the giblets then completely submerge the turkey in the liquid.
- Keep covered up for one to two days.
- Drain the liquid, wipe dry the turkey with paper towels and rest it for two hours.
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
- Melt the butter and maple syrup together and baste the turkey with the glaze. Roast in the oven and continue to baste every half an hour.
- Roast for 2.5 hours or slightly longer till juices run clear when you pierce the turkey.
- Take the turkey out of the oven and let it rest for at least half an hour before serving.
JEAN YIP’S ITALIAN WAGYU OXTAIL STEW
“We owned two Italian restaurants in 2000, and our Italian chef taught me how to cook this dish. It’s really delicious and since then, I have been cooking this every Christmas for the last 20 years. Our family and friends look forward to this oxtail stew every year, so much so that it has become a staple for our Christmas Eve gatherings,” shared Jean Yip, chairman of Jean Yip Group.
6kg wagyu oxtail
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour for dredging
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp unsalted butter
5 yellow onions chopped
1 whole pack of celery (diced)
5-6 carrots finely diced
1 bottle of red wine
750g of Italian canned tomatoes
3l of beef stock
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp dried oregano
1 large spring thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp arrowroot mixed with 2 tsp broth or water
3 tbsp finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp finely grated lemon zest
2 anchovy fillets, minced
- Heat the oven to 177 degrees Celsius.
- Tie the wagyu oxtail around the middle with kitchen string (if they’re not tied already) and season them with salt and pepper. Put the flour in a dish. Dredge the oxtail very lightly in flour, thoroughly shaking off the excess.
- Have ready a roasting pan or baking dish large enough to hold the oxtail in a single layer (9×13-inch works well). In a large heavy skillet, heat 3 tbsp of the oil over medium-high heat. Put a few pieces of wagyu oxtail in the pan and sear until nicely browned on both sides, two to three minutes per side. Move the oxtail to the roasting pan. Repeat with the remaining pieces of oxtails.
- Carefully pour off the fat in the pan and wipe it out with paper towels (it’s fine if the browned bits remain in the pan bottom; just wipe away the used oil). Return the pan to medium heat and add the butter and remaining 1 tbsp of oil. When the butter is melted, add the onion, celery, carrot, oregano, and 1 tsp salt. Cook the vegetables, stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly browned for 15 to 20 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the wine, and cook, for about three minutes, scraping up any brown bits with a wooden spoon, until the wine is reduced to about 1/4 cup.
- Stir in the tomato paste. Add the tomatoes with their juices, the broth, thyme, bay leaf, 1/2 tsp salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Bring to a boil, and pour the contents of the pan over the wagyu oxtail. Cover tightly with heavy-duty aluminium foil.
- Braise the wagyu oxtail in the oven until fork-tender, for one-and-a-half to two hours, checking the liquid occasionally. If it has cooked down, add enough broth to keep the level about halfway up the oxtail. To check for doneness, pierce an oxtail with a fork. The meat should pull apart easily. Taste a morsel – it should feel soft and tender. Do not overcook, or it will fall apart.
- Gently brush most of the vegetable bits off the oxtail. With a wide, flat metal spatula, carefully transfer the wagyu oxtail to a dish. Strain the pan juices through a medium-mesh sieve into a saucepan, pressing hard on the solids with a spatula to extract as much sauce as you can. Bring the sauce to a simmer. Whisk in the arrowroot mixture and cook briefly to thicken. If you’re working ahead, stop here (see Make ahead tips for reheating).
- Just before finishing the sauce and serving, combine the parsley, garlic, lemon zest, and anchovies. Add 2 tbsp of the gremolata to the sauce. Remove the strings from the oxtails. Serve topped with the sauce and a small sprinkling of the remaining gremolata.
Make ahead tips:
- To make ahead, braise the wagyu oxtail and strain and thicken the sauce with arrowroot. Wipe the roasting pan clean, return the oxtail to the pan, and pour the sauce over the oxtail. Let them cool at room temperature for an hour, cover well, and refrigerate for up to two days. To reheat, cover the pan with foil and set in a 163 degrees Celsius oven until the oxtails are hot, for 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer the oxtails to a dish, then make the gremolata, adding it to the sauce and sprinkling it over the oxtails.
KAREN SOH’S SALMON EN CROUTE
“As most Christmas dishes revolve around meat such as turkey, ham and roasted chicken, I wanted to create a healthier festive dish for my elders and kids. So I incorporated healthy fats such as salmon, and vegetables like leek and spinach for a lighter, refreshing palate,” shared Dr Karen Soh, Medical Director of Prive Clinic.
2 cloves of garlic
50g unsalted butter
1/2 a bunch of fresh oregano (15g)
1kg frozen chopped spinach
375g packet of all-butter puff pastry (cold)
1kg side of salmon, skin off, pin-boned (ask your fishmonger for a fillet from the top end of the fish), from sustainable sources
1 large free-range egg
50g sundried tomatoes
100ml white wine
1 tbsp plain flour, plus extra for dusting
250ml semi-skimmed milk
50g Red Leicester cheese
- Peel and finely slice the onions and garlic, then place in a large pan on medium heat with 1 tbsp of oil and half the butter. Pick in the oregano leaves and cook for 10 minutes, stirring regularly.
- Add the spinach and cook for a further 15 to 20 minutes, or until the liquid has evaporated, still stirring regularly. Remove from the heat, taste, season to perfection with sea salt and black pepper and allow to cool.
- Meanwhile, make the sauce: Wash, trim and finely slice the leek, then place in a large pan on medium-low heat with 1 tbsp of oil, the remaining butter and the sun-dried tomatoes. Cook for 15 minutes, or until sweet and tender, stirring regularly.
- Pour in the wine and let it bubble and cook away, then stir in the flour and, splash by splash, stir in the milk. Leave it to simmer for five minutes, then liquidise in a blender until silky smooth.
- Grate in the cheese, add a pinch of cayenne and blitz again to combine. Taste and season to perfection, then leave to cool completely.
- Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius and place a large baking sheet inside.
- On a large sheet of flour-dusted greaseproof paper, roll out the pastry so it’s 10cm bigger than your salmon all the way round.
- Pour away any excess liquid from the cooled spinach mixture, then spoon it on to the middle of the pastry and spread it across the surface, leaving a 3cm border at the edges. Place the salmon in the middle, then roll up the sides of the pastry to create the crust, going right up to the salmon and pinching it at the corners to secure it in place.
- Lightly score the top of the salmon in a criss-cross fashion, then pour the cool cheesy sauce over the fish. Brush the exposed pastry with beaten egg, then carefully lift the greaseproof and salmon en croute on to the preheated tray.
- Bake at the bottom of the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden and cooked through. This is delicious served with a garden salad and lemon wedges on the side for squeezing over.
SUSAN AND BERTRAND PEH’S ROAST TURKEY
“When my son Bertrand attended university in the UK, he and his friends decided to hold a pot-luck party for his first Christmas away from home. He bought a frozen turkey from Morrisons, a supermarket in the UK, but little did he know, it required at least three days to thaw and there was insufficient time to do so before the party.
Bertrand’s very first attempt at roasting the Christmas turkey was quite disastrous as the centre turned out cold. But as the years went by, he began to master the recipe. Bertrand cooks this roast turkey dish every Christmas for the family and after he is done cooking, I would usually love to plate and decorate while he takes a break to prepare other dishes,” said Susan Peh, senior director of Yeo-Leong & Peh LLC.
250g unsalted butter (Lurpak)
3 tbsp salt
1 tsp smoked paprika
3 cloves garlic
- After thawing the turkey, lightly, but evenly, salt the outside of the turkey. This is to be done 24 hours prior to cooking.
- Take the turkey out of the fridge, 1 hour before cooking, and preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius.
- In a bowl, mix 2/3 of the butter with smoked paprika, salt and 1 clove of minced garlic (butter compound).
- Using a tablespoon, separate the skin from the breast meat of the turkey.
- Insert nuggets of the butter compound under the skin.
- Slice the remaining garlic and onions into half and place it surface down onto the pan.
- Sit the turkey upside down and roast it for two hours.
- Flip the turkey, baste it with the drippings, and roast it for another two hours.
- Probe the turkey to check cooked status.
- Most importantly, let it rest for the same amount of time taken to cook. For example, if it took four hours and 33 mins to cook, let it rest for four hours and 33 mins.